98for98: The century in photographs: today 1923

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In conjunction with Photo 98 - The UK Year of Photography and the Electronic Image, The Independent and The Hulton Getty Picture Collection present 98 for 98 - The Century in Photographs. This group of naked women look like predecessors of modern-day rock festival revellers, yet the poses they strike pursued improved physical well-being rather than iniquity. Physical exercises were characterised in the early 1920s by Isadora Duncan's Greek-influenced dancing. Duncan had rebelled against formal dance training to create a more individual form of expression inspired by literature and classical music. She also found a muse in nature, and would dance barefoot in a flowing tunic. The influence of Duncan's natural dance moves reflected the back-to-nature ethos popular at the time.

It was in Nazism that the glorification of nature took a more sinister form. The creation of a "perfect race" which would combine the supposedly primitive nature of feminine spirituality with male "superiority". By 1923, the Nazi Party had 17,000 members and its popularity was rising. Nevertheless, Adolf Hitler misjudged its influence when he stormed a meeting of the Bavarian Government in December and declared: "The national revolution has begun." It led to his arrest and a threatened suicide.

General social mores were relaxing: Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was challenging the restrictions of female fashion by introducing softer fabrics, low heels and sweaters in her couture range; two important changes were made to the Matrimonial Causes Bill, allowing women to petition for divorce in the case of a husband's adultery, and husbands were no longer deemed to have coerced wives who committed offences in their presence. The National Birthrate Commission argued that sex education should be taught in schools.

T.S Eliot's epic poem "The Wasteland" gained notorioty this year for it's supposed plagiariasm of other texts and it's lack of traditional form. It has been canonised as one of the first examples of modernist literature and a statement reflecting a post-war sense of depression and futility. Eliot himself called it merely a piece of "rhythmical grumbling."

Photo 98 is a series of high profile national photography events and exhibitions, for further information contact 01484 559888 or www.photo98.com.

Current Exhibitions: `The Book of the Dead' at the City Museum and Mappin Art Gallery, Weston Park, Sheffield S10. (0114-276 8588)

Jennifer Rodger

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